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National Briefing / Virginia

Funeral verdict tossed out

September 25, 2009|Times Wire Reports

A federal appeals court has tossed out a $5-million verdict against protesters who carried signs with inflammatory messages such as "Thank God for dead soldiers" outside the Maryland funeral of a Marine killed in Iraq.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the signs contained "imaginative and hyperbolic rhetoric" protected by the 1st Amendment. A jury in Baltimore had awarded Albert Snyder damages for emotional distress and invasion of privacy. The 2006 funeral of Snyder's son, Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, in Westminster, Md., was among many military funerals that have been picketed by members of the fundamentalist Westboro Baptist Church.

Members of the Topeka, Kan.-based church have used protests to spread their belief that U.S. deaths in the Iraq war are punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.

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